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MF MD HG Warehouse SaleLast Chance 01-23-15
Product 301504

EMG EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup Ivory 

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The EMG-81 is a high-output pickup designed especially for the lead guitarist. The 81 is at its best for high volume overdrive and amps with a master...Read More

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See All EMG Humbucker Pickups

The EMG-81 is a high-output pickup designed especially for the lead guitarist. The 81 is at its best for high volume overdrive and amps with a master volume. Whether you're playing power rock 'n' roll, or overdriving your amp, there's a razor sharp attack, and incredible sustain for brilliant soloing. If you're looking for exceptional qualities in a rock pickup, the EMG-81 is the one.

Distortion during lead passages is consistent, sustain is long and the breakup fades smoothly. The ceramic magnet in combination with wide aperture steel poles lend a quick attack but the tone stays nice and fat at the same time. Perfect if you're the only guitarist in the band, and need to switch from rhythm to lead and still keep the band moving. Another great thing about the EMG-81 is it's quiet. If you're playing at really high gain the last thing you need is noise.

FEATURES
  • Package includes:
  • EMG's exclusive Quik-Connect cable
  • Prewired split shaft volume/tone control set
  • Output jack
  • Battery clip set

SPECIFICATIONS

EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup

  • Resonant Frequency (kHz): 2.00
  • Magnet Type: Ceramic/steel
  • Output Voltage (String): 2.0
  • Output Voltage (Strum): 4.5
  • Output Noise @ 60Hz: -91 dBV
  • Output Impedance: 10 kOhms
  • Current @ 9V: 80 microamps
  • Battery Life: 3,000 hours
  • Maximum Supply: 27V DC
Reviews
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Review Snapshot®

by PowerReviews
EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup
 
4.7

(based on 63 reviews)

Ratings Distribution

  • 5 Stars

     

    (52)

  • 4 Stars

     

    (5)

  • 3 Stars

     

    (3)

  • 2 Stars

     

    (1)

  • 1 Stars

     

    (2)

88%

of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

Pros

  • Good quality (8)
  • Improves sound (7)
  • Functional (5)
  • Easy to use (4)

Cons

    Best Uses

    • Concerts (3)
    • Practicing (3)
      • Reviewer Profile:
      • Experienced (6)

    Most Liked Positive Review

     

    EMG 81

    I am a very slow convert to EMG pickups in general. I am an engineer, and when you look at the idea of using an active preamp at the source and having a low...Read complete review

    I am a very slow convert to EMG pickups in general. I am an engineer, and when you look at the idea of using an active preamp at the source and having a low impedance signal to connect your source (guitar) to your amp, it makes sense that it would solve alot of problems like noise and hum. In addition, because these are epoxied, the possibility of having one become microphonic is The first time I bought them and installed them in a Les Paul, I did not like them - I was very into the passive pickups I was using at the time, but because of the high gain/low noise features these offer, I have kept coming back and trying EMGs again. I now have 2 similar type guitars with EMG 81 in the bridge, and also about 4 similar type guitars with a passive higher output in the bridge. i often go between them to see which tone I prefer. These days, I am becoming more of a fan of the EMGs. Some people have accused the 81 of always just sounding like an EMG 81 and masking the voice of the guitar. That is completely false. They, like all other pickups or microphones, are voiced to enhance or excite certain frequencies, but the voice of each of my guitars, which I know well, still comes through when I install EMGs. For recording, they are an answered prayer because they are high output with very low or even no noise. The 81 has abundant midrange which is important to me. The 81 has a sharp attack, which I expect as it is a ceramic magnet powered pickup. I think when most people hear the term "EMG" they assue "81" and judge what all active pickups will sound like based on the 81. However, the 85 to my ear responds more like an Alnico pickup would normally respond, and the 81 responds like a ceramic pickup would normally respond. That is another great feature - the quick disconnect makes it a snap to change pickups. So if I need a more classic vibe for a recording, i will pop in an 85 in the bridge. When I I need the power and attack to rip it up, I put the 81 in the bridge. I am a passive purist who has converted to the active pickups of EMG. I like them, I like the idea behind them. I like the way they sound, and I like the versatility. I just wish they looked like a normal humbucker so it did not change the appearance of my guitars so dramatically from the "stock" look.

    VS

    Most Liked Negative Review

     

    Heavy metal, nothing else

    This pick-up is really really really awesome... if you are playing metal. And metal only. I put this thing in my epiphone sg for when I was in a metalcore band and...Read complete review

    This pick-up is really really really awesome... if you are playing metal. And metal only. I put this thing in my epiphone sg for when I was in a metalcore band and it did exactly what I wanted it to do. It sounded perfect for metalcore, chugging, and just heavy music in general. But, when I left that band to join a new softer sounding indie band that uses a lot of clean tones, it was awful. The pickup was really bright on clean channels in a bad way. I had to play softly and be sure not to strike the strings to hard because if I did the sound would crack and sound bad. Bottom line, this pickup is really awesome if you are playing in a metal or hard rock band. But if you want to play some blues or country or softer stuff, FIND ANOTHER PICKUP!

    Reviewed by 63 customers

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    5.0

    Excellent lead pickup

    By Michael

    from Lexington, KY

    About Me Experienced

    Ask me a question

    Pros

    • Brings Out The Wood Tone
    • Cuts Thru The Mix
    • Good Quality
    • Great Clarity
    • Improves Sound
    • Very Quiet

    Cons

    • None

    Best Uses

    • Concerts
    • Practicing

    Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

    This is the second time I've owned an EMG 81 pickup so I have a bit of perspective now and the first time I have wrote a review. I love the tone. It is quiet, searing, roars and cuts thru any mix. It is very clear and unlike many reviews, I don't find it to be sterile at all, I think it brings out the differences in the wood combinations each guitar uses. I have one in my Dean Deceiver Single Cut with a Flame Maple top, set mahogany neck, ebony fretboard and EMG 85 in the neck. With the Dean, the pickup is louder, has more gain, more snarl and more bite than the Ibanez Art 500 EMG that I had an EMG 81/60 Combo in before selling the guitar. I think the I can tell difference in the lack of a flame top and a rosewood fretboard on the Ibanez left it sounding a bit more tame and with not as much gain. But it still put out notes with a lot of clarity and was very quiet. I am undecided if I'm totally sold on active pickups as a continual habit, but I love the sound I get out of the EMG 81 in my Dean and in my Ibanez.

    Comment on this review

    (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

     
    4.0

    versatile humbucker

    By Mike

    from TN.

    About Me Experienced

    Ask me a question

    Verified Buyer

    Pros

    • Clean Clear Tones
    • Good Quality
    • Improves Sound

    Cons

      Best Uses

      • All Types Of Music

      Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

      First time using this type of humbucker system in my guitars. I was very pleased with the tone and sound. I'm not a shredder or a metal player, mostly just Rock music but this pickup is surprisingly clear. If you want to overdrive the pickup, it can be done at the amp. Meaning that it not muddy on a clean setting and not to distorted on the dirty channels. All notes can be heard and ring out. I've read that this pickup was for thrash metal only and not bluesy types of rock and roll, well they are wrong! This pickup cuts through and spices things up, brings an added presence to the mix. By-the-way, they are so easy to install. Not more hot iron or soldering connection to fight with. PLUG and GO!!!!! My old les paul has new life and I was able to keep my Gibson 57 Plus in the neck. Works with all types of pickup combination. It seems that EMG makes pickups now for all. Check out their website, you'll be amazed. A long way from the late 80's. Still hate the Battery.

      Comment on this review

       
      5.0

      Excellent

      By Chris

      from New York

      About Me Experienced

      Ask me a question

      Verified Buyer

      Pros

      • Easy To Use
      • Functional
      • Good Quality
      • Improves Sound

      Cons

        Best Uses

        • Backup
        • Concerts
        • Practicing

        Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

        I got this with the EMG 60 pup to install on an instrument that had passive Emg HZ's. It s not difficult to install so long as you pay close attention to the diagrams.

        The 81 is a great pickup to use for high gain playing. I like it for that high cut tone. If you like high gain heavy playing, the 81 is a standard choice. Heavy chunky rhythms and searing highs that really cut through. It also offers nice harmonics and more sustain.

        Amps I play through are an Orange Tiny Terror and a Blackstar HT 20 head. The 81 pushes these amps great for a whole new meaning of heaviness.

        Although known for high gain playing, Clean, the 81 has a very nice chimey tone with good range.

        All in all a great active pickup.

        Comment on this review

        (0 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

         
        5.0

        Great pick up

        By DavidToDefy

        from Woodland Hills, Ca

        About Me Experienced

        Ask me a question

        Pros

        • Easy To Use
        • Functional
        • Good Quality
        • Improves Sound

        Cons

          Best Uses

          • Backup
          • Concerts
          • Practicing

          Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

          I have this pickup as a stock pickup on my Schecter Damien Elite Solo 6, and this pickup is versatile, great tone and many of my favorite artists use EMG, so why would I use anything else? EMG for Life!

          Comment on this review

          (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

           
          5.0

          Most neutral pickup on the planet

          By GuitarGuy1

          from White Haven, PA

          About Me Professional Musician

          Ask me a question

          Pros

          • Easy To Use
          • Functional
          • Good Quality
          • Improves Sound
          • Neutral
          • Smooth

          Cons

          • None

          Best Uses

          • Any guitar
          • Any Type Of Music

          Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

          I've been using EMG 81/60 pickups for a long, long time. They are extremely neutral ... meaning, they don't color the sound. I want to hear the wood of my guitars and the amps, not a coloration of such. I play primarily through ENGL E670 SE EL34 heads as well Mesa Mark V heads and these pickups just sound incredible with them. Plenty of bark and bite when you need it, yet mellow when you back off. And they are very quiet. Pair these up with an EMG Afterburner and you will never go back to using floor pedals for boost ever again. 100% guitar and amp. That is the way it should be. If you need pedals to make your guitar/amp/pickup sound good, you have the wrong setup.

          Comment on this review

          (2 of 5 customers found this review helpful)

           
          3.0

          Heavy metal, nothing else

          By tanner125

          from Lexington, KY

          About Me Experienced

          Ask me a question

          Pros

          • Good Quality
          • Good With High Gain
          • Heavy Chugs

          Cons

          • Bad Clean Tones
          • Difficult To Use
          • Hard To Install

          Best Uses

          • Metal

          Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

          This pick-up is really really really awesome... if you are playing metal. And metal only. I put this thing in my epiphone sg for when I was in a metalcore band and it did exactly what I wanted it to do. It sounded perfect for metalcore, chugging, and just heavy music in general. But, when I left that band to join a new softer sounding indie band that uses a lot of clean tones, it was awful. The pickup was really bright on clean channels in a bad way. I had to play softly and be sure not to strike the strings to hard because if I did the sound would crack and sound bad. Bottom line, this pickup is really awesome if you are playing in a metal or hard rock band. But if you want to play some blues or country or softer stuff, FIND ANOTHER PICKUP!

          Comment on this review

          (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

           
          5.0

          Never would have known.....

          By Funkstroke!

          from Tracy, CA

          About Me Experienced

          Pros

          • Cuts Through Nicely
          • Functional
          • Good Quality
          • Improves Sound

          Cons

          • Clean Tones Challenging

          Best Uses

          • Leads

          Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

          On a whim I picked up a cool looking Godin Redline 1 with a single EMG 81 in the bridge. So out of character as I've been playing Fenders and Ibanez's w/single coils and have a LP copy with Duncan 59/JB. Never had any experience with active pickups, but was completely blown away by the clarity of tone and especially how well it cuts through the mix. Talk about turning heads! Had to do a few tweaks to my amp Eq and pedal levels to get better control, but it's really growing on me. Even sounds decent clean through my tube amps-real nice bite that cuts through for funk (tele on steroids). So far I've been able to play everything from funky rhythm to Living Colour and even had to try some Metallica! The 81 simply excells with any kind of Drive or Distortion. Be careful as you may make your cats explode!!

          Comment on this review

           
          5.0

          Great pickup

          By carlitos

          from St louis

          About Me Professional Musician

          Verified Buyer

          Pros

          • Easy To Use
          • Functional
          • Good Quality
          • Improves Sound

          Cons

            Best Uses

              Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

              If you play modern nu metal this the way to go

              Comment on this review

               
              5.0

              Great pickups

              Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

              Great way to upgrade a mid range or entry level guitar.
              Got these as a replacement set for my Jackson Warrior JS32.
              Solderless pickups (which is awesome). A word of caution: If your output jack is on the opposite end of the control cavity (i.e. controls are in the lower wing, output jack is in the upper wing), you'll need to contact EMG to get a longer set of battery/tone cables. They'll send you some for free but they're not standard included with the package.
              Anyway they work as I expected. Nice saturated tone, great sounding pinch harmonics.
              Great for distortion, too much output for clean playing.

              Comment on this review

              (3 of 3 customers found this review helpful)

               
              5.0

              I keep coming back to EMG....

              By john harrell

              from Georgia

              Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

              I have played metal, blues, and various other types of music for the last 18 years on a gillion different guitars and amps, alone at home, in a band, and recording tracks on my computer. I have used Duncan Blackouts, passive pickups of all sorts, and I always keep coming back to the EMG 81. It's just my staple sound and I like it more than anything else out there. I cuts through the mix in a band or recording better then the Blackouts, clean tones are still clean, and they are plenty brutal when you want a metal sound, which is what they are made for. They don't get muddy when you play more than 2 string power chords like others do. I have 8 guitars, and my favorite is an Ibanez SA that was reloaded with these pickups in the bridge and neck, and just articulates every little gritty, grainy, gain-saturated note I play like no other guitar I own or have ever played, with any type of pickup or wood. These are the best!
              It's a pickup. Not a lot in the way of features.
              If these weren't top notch pieces of gear, then professional musicians wouldn't all be usng them and swearing by them.
              You get what you pay for, and these are worth more than what they cost in my opinion.

              Comment on this review

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